Archive for the ‘Chimp histories’ Category

A history of Foxie

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Today I went waayy back into the blog archives and found this post from Diana about visiting Foxie while she still lived at Buckshire:

“Foxie is a small chimpanzee with a dark, inquisitive face and a somewhat mischievous charm. She was born into captivity in 1976, fated to be used by humans for their purposes. Her caregiver at Buckshire has described her as shy, but everyone from CSNW who has visited her has found her initial shyness to be short-lived.

For the first hour or so during my visit, Foxie remained mostly out-of-view in a corner of a cage farthest from the door. But I could tell she was paying attention to everything and was curiously assessing the situation. I think she felt safer remaining near Negra, who also occupied the farthest of the four small cages. Foxie warmed up to me once I began to give out peanuts. She put her hand behind her to catch the peanuts that I dropped into the food chute of the cage, and she was very pleased that I made a point to return frequently to ensure she got her share.

When I had given out all of the peanuts, Foxie ventured into the next cage, climbed up as high as possible (which is only about six feet), pressed her belly to the caging and looked down. I had a rolled-up newspaper in my hand and I reached up with this and tickled her belly. She was thrilled. She came down to the floor, bobbed her head (a chimpanzee gesture communicating play) and put her belly up to the caging again. For the rest of my visit, she was very active and wanting to play, and I indulged her as much as possible. By the end of the visit, Foxie was sitting in the first cage near her friend Burrito. I am looking forward to seeing Foxie and Burrito romping in the playroom at the sanctuary and I expect she will take advantage of every inch of her much expanded world.”

Foxie’s personality was apparent, even in cramped and extremely stressful living conditions, which is a true testament to her resiliency. Here is where Diana found Foxie almost 10 years ago:

In sanctuary, Foxie’s world has truly expanded, just as Diana knew it would:

Mysteries of the heart

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Foxie’s love of her dolls is an endless source of heart-melting joy, fascination and mystery to us. If you’ve been following the chimpanzees for awhile you are probably aware that Foxie’s love of her dolls (that we’re aware of) began shortly after the chimps’ arrival to the sanctuary in 2008 with her subsequent discovery of “Trixie” the troll doll. For several years, Foxie lived and breathed troll dolls and showed little to no interest in other dolls or forms of enrichment.

Then Dora the Explorer appeared on the scene and for reasons known only to Foxie, she was utterly smitten. Dora quickly raised through the ranks to join the status of the trolls. While we’ll never know what mysterious criteria Dora met, we were happy to see Foxie branching out with her interests. She became particularly enamored with France Dora. She definitely has a certain “je ne sais quoi” and to this day I think she remains Foxie’s most treasured of all the Dora dolls.

Fast forward a few years and Foxie branched out even further to include Dora’s friends:

It’s hard to resist wanting to interpret Foxie’s behavior with her dolls and in our curiosity to make guesses as to Foxie’s doll criteria, we thought maybe it was the combination of big hair and big eyes. Most recently she’s incorporated the new Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Big hair: check! Big eyes: check!

And then…Foxie threw us a curve ball by falling in love with the new old-style Strawberry Shortcakes. Big hair: meh, not so much. Big eyes: no, beady!

When Foxie adds another doll to her collection that doesn’t mean her trolls and Dora dolls lose their status. Her comfort level just seems to expand allowing her natural curious nature to investigate new things. And it seems her heart feels increasingly safer to let new experiences in. And we certainly know that our fellow animals experience the same emotions we humans do. That said, it’s tempting to read too much into Foxie’s behavior and it’s emotionally appealing and comforting for us to think her love for her dolls is all about a chance to be the mother she was never allowed to be to her four children she gave birth to in the labs who were stolen from her. After such incomprehensible trauma, it’s clear the dolls bring Foxie enormous comfort and joy and I think it’s safe to say she does engage in mothering behavior with them, but at the same time she often beats them up. And I mean beats.them.up!

And so as curious as we are and as well as we know Foxie, just as with any other person, we can never know for sure what she is thinking. Nor would we be so species-centric if you will, to assume. And the thing is, it doesn’t matter. Foxie is Foxie and her happiness doesn’t need definition. Nor does our love for her. Her happiness and well-being, that’s the only thing that’s our business.

It’s been a few weeks since Foxie has received a new Dora and when we surprised her with one a supporter had sent, it was evident that Dora’s still got it. Whatever “it” may be.

A whirlwind of years

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Today is about time flying by and some of the great random moments in the lives of the chimpanzees over the last ten years.

I’ve started and stopped this blog so many times today that I lost count.


There were toys to clean:


Laundry to do:


Amazing interns to train:


Paper braids for evening enrichment to be made (most of which were made by the aforementioned amazing interns):



And of course walks to take. Jamie was in the running mood today, so this quick snapshot was the only halfway decent photo I was able to get on one of our day walks:


Plus a whole host of other daily activities.


And then more walks after dinner! (well after I thought I would have this blog posted).

Courtesy of the unseasonably mild weather and the lengthening days, Jamie did three more walks after her evening meal, with Missy joining her for two of them.


This year’s HOOT! gala on May 19th will celebrate ten years of the Cle Elum Seven chimpanzees living the sanctuary life. TEN YEARS!

We are in the process of a website redesign right now. I’m really excited about a whole new look that highlights the great photos of the chimpanzees and hopefully makes it easy for people to be drawn in and fall in love with them. Here’s a sneak peek:

When the designers were starting to move the data over from the existing site into the new design, they ran into a snag because of the amount of content that we had in the blog. Ten years worth of photos, videos, and stories, it seems, takes up quite a bit of space.

I love that we have this diary of the chimpanzees’ days and the moments that were funny, poignant, and sometimes even mundane.

I remember being a kid and thinking that a week, or even a day (an hour?), was an excruciatingly long time to wait for something. I remember adults saying, “don’t complain – when you get older, time will fly by.”

Never were truer words uttered.

Lately, I feel like I’m in a movie montage – days pass by in seconds, and years are contained in just a minute’s worth of highlights. But then there’s this blog with all of these posts that mark real moments in time over the last several years. Moments that the chimpanzees were living to the fullest. Days that were spent with companionship, favorite foods, boots, trolls, blankets. Years that marked new additions to their home. Almost a decade of exploration into this new life they were given.


Here’s a look back on the last ten years of blog posts for January 20th (or thereabouts – we didn’t always post to the blog every single day – can you imagine!)


January 21, 2008:

not-so-shy Foxie


January 19, 2009:

Trolls: Not just for Foxie!


January 19, 2010:

Annie Upside Down



January 20, 2011:

Greenhouse play


January 21, 2012:

the snow days continue


January 20, 2013:

Floppy ears


January 20, 2014:

There’s something about Burrito


January 21, 2015:

Always a reason to play


January 20, 2016:

20 snapshots of the day


January 20, 2017:

Tool Use


And that bring us to today. Happy January 20th to everyone. Thank you for following along!


Happy Birthday Burrito from Kimberly Fleming!

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Burrito’s friend Kimberly sponsored today in his honor! It’s pretty difficult to believe that goofy, playful,  rambunctious Burrito is 35 today. He’s come a long way since he and the six female chimpanzees arrived at the sanctuary in 2008. He had a lot to overcome – you can read about his history on this page.

We are catering the day to him today and will post later about how we celebrated Burrito’s birthday in the way we think he would appreciate the most.

Thank you for sponsoring the day for the one and only lovable Burrito Chimpanzee, Kimberly.


Space and time

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Initially, Annie had no use for her party yesterday. While everyone else partied in the greenhouse Annie promptly bypassed the indoor festivities and ventured outside to Young’s Hill all on her own. She took her time foraging and scooped up most of everything that was out there, enjoying it all at her own pace. It was amazing to watch her sitting out there enjoying her celebration in peace and solitude.

If you’ve been following the blog for awhile you may know that Annie hasn’t always been so comfortable in her own skin. I think of all the chimps, her change over the last nine years in sanctuary is one of the most apparent. I still remember so clearly the early days after the chimps gained access to their outdoor enclosure and one day I watched Annie, sitting in the raceway to the hill wanting so badly to be with her best friend Missy who was zipping and zooming around out there with ease. Annie’s eyes were glued to Missy as she rocked with anxiety awaiting her return to the greenhouse.

It was heart wrenching to watch those moments. But of course, we trusted that Annie would find the courage to move forward in her own space and time. That’s one of the most beautiful things about sanctuary. Space and time. Space and time for each of the chimps to heal. Space and time for each of their battered souls to come back to them and explore, learn and remember who they are. After nine years in sanctuary, each of the chimps continue to surprise us every single day with their brave, daring, curious, creative, intelligent and beautiful selves.

What a gift that is. For all of us who have the privilege to watch them, and most importantly, for each of the chimps who with each passing day/week/month/year get to celebrate being their own person. However that looks.

Annie feet:

Bonus Negra photo from the party because, well, that face!:

Queen Negra

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Negra spent 30 years in laboratories, being poked and prodded in the name of research. In 1986, during her 13th year in a lab cage, it was suspected that Negra had some kind of contagious disease, so she was placed in isolation – possibly the worst thing you can do to a social animal. Here is the note in her record from that time:

3/31/86 – Dr. ordered animal removed from main colony and placed in isolation for further testing.

It’s unclear why, but it took almost two years for the lab technicians to realize, after extensive testing, that they had isolated Negra for no reason. In 1988 she was returned to her regular cage.

1/14/88 – Enter cage #28 by herself. Home again.

It’s possible that this was the low point in Negra’s life in the lab, but even the “good” days were filled with needles, dart guns, fear, and loneliness. Twenty years after Negra was returned to her “home” cage post-isolation, she finally moved to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

You might think that the life Negra experienced in the lab would make for a timid, docile individual. But Negra is anything but docile. We call her “the Queen” of the sanctuary, because she is regal and imperious. When Negra wants something, you’d better not stand in her way. She’s cranky, self-assured, and determined. Negra is strong.

Perhaps equally surprising, given her history, is that Negra has not written off humans. Though she will let you know when you’ve disappointed her, she does not hold grudges. And even though she has every reason to hate and fear our species, she gives out kisses freely.

May we all strive to be Negra.

For Jody and all the mamas

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

The weekend of celebrations continues in the chimp house today as we celebrate not only Mother’s Day, but beloved Jody, on her 42nd honorary birthday!

I was in my gracious neighbor’s magical backyard bright and early this morning, heisting two armfuls of lilacs. Many of the chimps enjoy smelling and eating them and even now, late in the day, the scent of fresh lilac occasionally is wafts through their home.

We started the celebration off with a beautiful breakfast forage of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, watermelon, and baby bananas on a bed of lettuce, strawberry and banana smoothie, and more sparkling cider.

The greenhouse was bright and sunny as we set up the party. Pineapple tops are a favorite of the birthday girl so we hoped Jody would find this pokey treat:

And she did:

Nothing says party like shoving an entire pokey pineapple top in your mouth:

Dora had a gift for someone:

Foxie gazing at Dora while enjoying her fresh lilacs and melting my heart into a big ol’ puddle:

Annie enjoying a party plate:

For Jamie, parties are even (or maybe I should say especially) serious business. She was methodically looking for her favorites and keeping a watchful eye on the three pinatas hanging from the ceiling until she could get to them. Jamie loves a challenge so this was her kind of party:

The lilacs are quite popular with a few of the girls and Annie was doing her best to collect some on the sly while avoiding the eyes of the more dominant Missy and Jamie and she collected quite a few:

Gorgeous Missy enjoying a treat box:

Burrito was a wild man all morning long. Riling up the girls, rattling the caging, displaying throughout the chimp house. Pretty much normal stuff, but with an extra dash of wild today. But he did find time to settle down and enjoy the company of his friends on their special day and even went to Annie’s defense to reassure her when she got yelled at for picking the “wrong” lilac:

Burrito and Foxie:

And then there’s Negra, who ended the celebration by collecting all the lilacs she could and winding up with a beautiful bouquet:

Mother’s Day is a special day at the sanctuary. If you’re new to the blog and just learning about the chimps, we only know that Jody was most likely born in the wild sometime in 1975. We chose this day to celebrate Jody in honor of the nine infants she gave birth to, but who were stolen from her during her time in biomedical research. With the exception of Jamie and Burrito, all of the chimps residing here had children and were denied the right to raise them. So today, with full hearts, we honor each of the chimps, their loss of their own mothers, and their children who lost the opportunity to grow up with their amazing mothers. You can learn more about each of their stories here.

Mother’s Day can feel like a bittersweet celebration here at times. But what I am finding is that with each passing year, as we’re astounded and privileged to witness the strength, healing and resiliency of these amazing beings, the pain of knowing the horror they endured for so long starts to fade into the shadows, eclipsed by the incredible light of each of these special souls. While we will always honor all they’ve been through, it’s really become about celebrating all they’ve overcome as unique individuals, the hope and joy they embrace each day with, and the family you’ve made possible for them to have. I hope with all my heart that they feel the same.

Happy Birthday, beautiful Jody!! We love you so very much!! And Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there! And I really think that’s all of us in some shape or form. 🙂


From blue cement floors below, to blue skies above

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Just over eight years ago, the Cle Elum 7 were living in the windowless basement of the Buckshire Corporation in Pennsylvania. Their entire world consisted of four attached 6×6 cages.

Here’s a little perspective on just exactly what that meant for the chimpanzees:

Take a moment and imagine only being able to climb as high as that cage ceiling or walk as far as the beginning of one wall to the end of the other. It’s truly inconceivable.

A huge part of sanctuary means providing a new multidimensional expansive world for the chimpanzees to enjoy.

When Missy climbed to to the tallest structure on Young’s Hill this morning, she was around 20 feet in the air with an unimpeded view of a lush green valley and rolling mountains. The sun could warm her back and the breeze could tickle her skin. She had 2 acres of grassy hill to run and play on, with several comfortable indoor areas to nap and groom in.







What a difference 8 years can make.

Tiny chimp, big world

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

We tend to equate mothers with maternity. But whether or not we find ourselves in the position of mothering children, I believe we are all mothers in some form, at some point. Maybe it’s mothering our animal friends, loved ones and family, ourselves, our plants, or even a creative project we’ve put our hearts into. It’s that innate sense we have to nurture, protect and care for someone or something we hold dear, or sometimes just a compassion and empathy that comes from witnessing a fellow being just trying to get through life the same as we are.

If you’re new to the blog or the chimps’ histories you may not be aware that Annie, Missy, Negra, Jody and Foxie were all used as “breeders” during their time in biomedical research. Each of them was forced to have child after child only to have their babies stolen from them shortly after birth, destined to a future as horrid as their parents. (To our knowledge Jamie has never had any children). You can learn more about the chimps’ histories on our Eyes on Apes page.

Foxie is mother to four children. Two daughters, Angie (who thankfully resides at Save the Chimps in Florida, and Kelsey (who resides at Alamogordo Primate Facility), and a rare set of twin sons, David and Steve (who are sadly both deceased now).

Foxie is rarely without at least one of her troll or Dora dolls and appears to have a tendency to carry two at a time. Maybe when Foxie chooses to carry two dolls at a time she can’t decide between favored dolls, perhaps two are the most she can comfortably carry, or it’s another reason I can’t possibly imagine. We can never say with certainty what the chimps are thinking, but I often wonder if it’s indicative of memories of her twins.

After breakfast yesterday the chimps headed out onto Young’s Hill and Foxie and her two Doras du jour headed off to explore on their own.





Walking along the perimeter with Jamie, as we got to the top of the hill I thought I spotted Foxie and the Doras high atop “Jamie’s Tower,” but she wasn’t immediately visible. Then reaching the other side of the structure, I could see her spying through the slats, enjoying her own world.



Gazing at her Dora dolls:


I stood watching Foxie, utterly mesmerized by how tiny she appeared against the backdrop of the stunning views surrounding her sanctuary home. Then for the first time that I’ve seen, Foxie began “phantom” nesting (nesting behavior in the absence of nesting material) with her dolls on the tower. Foxie doesn’t build nests as most chimps do, but we often see her (and sometimes Burrito) engaging in this behavior in a corner of the chimp house during which she claps and clasps her hands together while moving her arms up, across, and down, almost in a figure eight. Similar to movements chimps in the wild make as they bend in and fold branches around them when they create nests, as well as chimps in captivity who use blankets and other nesting material to build their nests. We don’t know a lot about this behavior, but as far as we know it’s only been observed in captive chimps and is not commonly seen.



We can’t know if any of the chimps would have been good mothers given their unnatural circumstances and the trauma they endured, but chances are had they not been deprived of the right to their natural lives, they would have been.





I’m not sure if Foxie was mothering her dolls or mothering herself through the comfort and joy they provide her, both, or neither. And it doesn’t matter. In whatever form it takes, Foxie is a good mother.


This tiny chimpanzee woman’s world has grown exponentially from what it was for the first 32 years of her life. But her heart and spirit can never be constrained by space.

We Like What We Like

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Jamie spent her childhood living in a human home, and like all chimps who begin their lives in human homes, she quickly grew too strong and unmanageable. Jamie was sold to a research lab when she was about nine years old, and spent the next 22 years in hepatitis vaccine trials and possibly other invasive studies.

Jamie is one of the lucky ones. When she was 31, she was “retired” from research and moved to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. Chimpanzees who have lived with and around humans often pick up human habits and interests – Jamie files her nails, ties knots, and loves (and sometimes wears) boots. Jamie is different from the chimpanzees you see behaving like humans in movies and on TV; those chimps are trained – brutally – to perform and are often duct-taped into their clothes. At the sanctuary, Jamie chooses the objects she likes from the various enrichment items we provide each day and she does what she wants with them: nests with them, plays with them, ignores them, destroys them, or wears them.

A few days ago we had a visitor whose beautiful boots Jamie was clearly obsessed with. In a moment of overwhelming generosity, our visitor left Jamie the boots she came in with and walked out of the sanctuary barefoot. Jamie couldn’t resist giving her new boots a test run.